Monday, September 16, 2013

Al Capone's Cell at the Penitentiary

Photograph of Al Capones prison cell at the Eastern State Penitentiary by Gary Heller
Al Capone's Cell

black and white photograph of a cell block in a penitentiary by Gary Heller
Cell block

The Eastern State Penitentiary is a historical ruin with quite a history. Notorious criminals such as bank robber Willie Sutton and Al Capone were held inside its innovative wagon wheel design. When the building was erected it was the largest and most expensive public structure ever constructed, quickly becoming a model for more than 300 prisons worldwide. 

Al Capone's Cell at the Eastern State Penitentiary is a marvel in itself and makes one understand how corrupt the officials must have been here as well as the incredible influence Al had wherever he was.
The other cells in the pen basically had a bed, a small pine side table with three drawers and a single stool to sit. During his days here the walls were in better condition and I can imagine it must have looked like a small luxury hotel room, complete with skylight.

If you click on the photo and go to my site, you can click again for a full resolution preview to discover some of the details in here.

Cell Block was shot through a steel gate blocking entrance because of the dangers of the terrible condition its in. Using a tripod and wide angle lens (17mm) I was able to grab 5 shots of varying exposures and blend them to create this black and white HDR photograph.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Devils Haircut in the Demon Barbers chair

A Barbers chair in an old prison cell spooky photograph by Gary Heller
The Barbers Chair

Devils Haircut photograph by Gary Heller
Devils Haircut

This summer I took a tour with a friend of mine to the Eastern State Penitentiary in PA. Paid a reasonable fee to bring the tripods inside with us, and its really a must if you want to do some serious shooting of the scenes inside.

A very interesting place with a lot of history having housed some famous prisoners such as Slick Willie Sutton and Scarface, Al Capone.

Roaming around the cell blocks we came upon this weird and almost surreal sight. An old barbers chair inside one of the dismal and crumbling cells, lit up by a skylight in the ceiling.

When we first saw this, the light was a bit more behind the chair leaving it almost in shadow, but I figured if we came back to it a couple hours later the position of the sun would angle better onto the chair and ultimately make for a better photograph.

Both of these photographs were done with a tripod using 5 exposures blended together to bring out all the detail and dynamic range of this very high contrast scene. I like to edit to achieve a more surreal look to enhance the texture and wonderful patina of this place, and the overall mood.

It reminded me of Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Fading Memory One Summer Morning...

Photography Prints

A Fading Memory One Summer Morning

Recently, I headed out to Dutchess County, New York State to see an airshow of old vintage aircraft. The show was scheduled for Sunday afternoon, but I had left my home at about 3:30 in the morning because I wanted to venture about the area and see what the early morning light would reveal.

I had made my way up and as I turned off a road into an area near Rhinebeck called Red Hook, I saw this old abandoned (seemingly, you never know) house nestled in the woods. It was one of those moments when your stop breathing, your holding your breath in a sort of state of anxiety I suppose. For me, I feel like a kid in a candy store when I come upon these mysterious and wonderfully intriguing sights. Abandoned places seem to give me that thrill.  What's the story here?  Why would a beautiful home like this, in an amazing location be left to be reclaimed by the woods?

The location was absolutely quiet with barely a rustle of a leaf in the wind. The buzzing from the pesky mosquitos I had to deal with were pretty much the only sounds I heard.

I shot this scene from various angles so as to have a selection to choose from when I viewed them later on the computer. I find its always best, especially if you have the time to give yourself many different angles and compositions to later choose from.  I shot this with a 70-200mm 2.8L IS Canon lens at a 70mm focal length. F11, 1/8th  at 125 iso.

The airshow at the Aerodrome was great that afternoon, and I have some pics in the workings that I'll post later but I think my favorite time of the whole day was the early morning venture.

A quiet beautiful morning with a scene like this in front of me, cup of black coffee in hand and my camera gear set up.  Life is nice.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Blacksmith

Art Prints
The Blacksmith Canvas Print

Earlier this year, I visited a 19th century Blacksmith shop that was still in use. I was given the opportunity and freedom to look around and take some pictures while the blacksmith went on with his day.
It was a cold day in February and although it was very dark inside the shop, the warmth and smell of the burning coals and heated irons made for a wonderful atmosphere. The dark workspace is very important as it enables the Blacksmith to more easily see the colors of the metals as they are being heated. The color determines the proper temperature required for various metals to be worked with.

This is a shot consisting of multiple exposures. The blacksmith had stopped for a few moments to look outside and I quickly fired off a bracket of 3 exposures. The processing was done in a sort of two tone look, of warm and cool. This is what it felt like to me inside that day. there was the warmth and orange glow from the forge mixing with the cold air and black soot that covered the floors and much of everything else inside.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Red Doors

Photography Prints
Purchase Print

As my friend and I were headed back down towards New York city from the Rhinebeck, N.Y. area, I spotted this gem and yelled "Stop!" This was actually still in or very near Rhinebeck. It must have been a beautiful home at one time and circumstances caused it to become neglected and/or abandoned.
These abandoned homes always make me wonder about the back story, what happened and at what point did it no longer become a place someone called home. Perhaps an elderly person or couple passed away and there is no family around to care for the house, or maybe not ready to move on.

It does look as though there may be someone going in or out of there at times as noted by the trampled area of vines in front of the doors.

I shot this from across the road which may have been about 100ft away using a 70-200L 2.8 IS Canon lens. This allowed me to frame it as I did including the steps, porch and awning trimmings and side windows compressed into a neat composition. It was shot at about 148mm using three bracketed exposures which were later blended together in Photomatix Pro and then cropped and color adjusted in LightRoom 4. The IS (image stabilization) made it easy to hand hold this shot at those settings (slowest shutter speed was 1/40) and still have it all very sharp.

Friday, January 11, 2013


Sell Art Online
Purchase print

As I am in the middle of editing some pics from a recent road trip with fellow photographer George Argento, I wanted to post another shot from my session with Mosh a while back. Mosh has such a classic Hollywood starlet look that I shot her with a beauty dish and edited for a classic feel.

She is clearly wonderful and a fantastic subject. This image was shot against a gray seamless background. Beauty dish and 580EXll shot through portable soft box for fill. A strip box was used for rim and hair light but really any light and modifier could have done the job for this shot. It's what I happen to have had mounted on my studio wall....

Edited in Lightroom and CS5, some healing brush for skin perfection, gausian blur on layer for soft hair and features and color/contrast adjustment layers.

Friday, January 4, 2013

A place in time, Mosh

Photography Prints

framed print available

Here is a black and white portrait I did with Mosh during our shoot. I selected it from several because of her direct and deep gaze into the lens, which was what I had been looking for and asked of her. Mosh is simply fantastic, one of the best subjects I have had the pleasure to shoot.

This as with most of the studio sessions were shot against a seamless paper background. This in particular being a medium gray. It was later swapped out, or rather had a different background layered and blended over it in CS5. A stock image of clouds I had taken a while back was converted to b&w and used to add atmosphere and mood to the portrait. The image was intentionally done in a gritty and grainy texture to further emphasize a sort of timeless feel.

The setup consisted of a couple of MWhite Lightning heads using a medium softbox for main and a stripbox for rim and hair. A few portable strobes in with modifiers to add fill and background light. Canon 5D MK2, Canon 85mm 1.8